Please allow me to introduce myself. I am Wyzo, your interactive medical GPS system. Together with Xuan Zheng we will guide you over the often bumpy, sometimes uncharted, digital terrain on your journey to marketing effectiveness (ME). While on our way, we will discover how healthcare practitioner (HCP) segmentation can speed you along the digital superhighway to ME.

Wyzo: A good traveller should have a rough idea about their eventual destination. So, Xuan, briefly, what is ME?

Xuan Zheng (XZ): ME means ensuring that for every penny spent there is a positive effect on bottom-line business key performance indicators. Traditionally, what the industry tended to consider were often vanity metrics (e.g. likes, shares, retweets); however, we need to shift our mindset to actionable criteria to make sure the marketing/comms investment aligns with the fundamental business indicators, e.g. prescriptions, market share, sales value, and, ultimately, share price.

Wyzo: Before we set off, we should take a snapshot of the current communication analytics landscape.

XZ: Currently, communication analytics focuses pretty much on social listening to understand the earned content. But with the shift of the media environment, W2O has started more and more paid campaigns, which means analytics needs to shift the focus to paid media – how to help clients to optimise their media investment and drive ME and efficiency.

Wyzo: Please expand on some of the factors that drive ME.

XZ: This question can be best explained by breaking it down into: Where, who, and what. ‘Where’ means the placement. That is, on which channel should your campaign message be delivered – is it on TV, or digital, or outdoor, etc.? ‘Who’ refers to your target audience, in this case HCPs. ‘What’ alludes to the message, the content, the creative elements, campaign features (visuals), etc.

Wyzo: Please flag some common obstacles on the road to ME.

XZ: Generally, not having the correct measurement mindset or not looking at the right metrics. In communication agencies, we tend to lean too heavily on ‘what’, but not enough on the placement – ‘where’ – and the people – ‘who’ – or we haven’t utilised more advanced and sophisticated approaches to discern the ‘where’ and ‘who’.

Wyzo: So, previously, ME was evaluated through observational studies in real practice. Now, our work at W2O has opened new avenues of exploration?

XZ: You are right. Traditional communication analytics has focused too much on what happened, now we have started to explore what drives the change. Statistics modelling and machine learning are the approaches we should embrace. This allows us to identify what exactly propels client business forwards and provide not only insights but also foresights.

Wyzo: What does the term ‘HCP segmentation’ actually mean?

XZ: HCP segmentation means enabling a more effective marketing strategy to be developed because it makes engagement between the HCP and an agency, such as W2O, more effective. It shows us what our audiences do, not what we think they should be doing.

“Healthcare practitioner segmentation shows what our audiences do, not what we think they should be doing.”

Wyzo: What are the entities (for example, people or companies) that could be segmented?

XZ: This is a ‘who’ question: Who is the target audience? Most of the time we look at an HCP’s social profile and social activities to define which HCPs matter most to us. However, this is a very static view and it is now possible to segment based on factors including their real prescription behaviours, etc. This is certainly the case in the US. In the UK, NHS UK provides good prescription data, which could be a good foundation.

Wyzo: So what do you think could be a more sophisticated approach?

XZ: For example, we can investigate how frequently, how recently, and how often an HCP prescribed a certain product. Then overlay with patient data to segment the HCPs into, for example, championing HCPs or hibernating HCPs (i.e. HCPs who prescribed a lot in the past but haven’t prescribed recently), or HCPs with high potential to influence.

Wyzo: So HCP segmentation doesn’t represent a crossroads in marketing, but is instead one of the routes to explore on the road to ME?

XZ: HCP segmentation is not a new concept. There are different ways to address it. As mentioned earlier, traditional healthcare communication analytics used social data or primary research to segment HCPs. This approach is a bit fixed and focuses perhaps too much on ‘attitude’. The new approach we discussed above is to introduce a real-world behavioural assessment – their drug prescriptions. I think we should unify both approaches to make sure we target the right HCPs and ultimately achieve an effective campaign.

Wyzo: It is said that there is ‘art’ behind HCP market segmentation? What is meant by this?

XZ: You need to make the data talk and tell the story. Every single analysis needs to be aligned with business objectives and strategic imperatives to make sure the science really delivers the brief.

Wyzo: Thanks for sharing this journey with us Xuan. Would you say regularly reviewing your findings is as important as checking your travel photographs?

XZ: Definitely, because we are living in an evolving and dynamic world. We need to keep our eyes on the changes, e.g. we need to keep reviewing HCP segmentation, how HCPs shift (from, say, hibernating to championing) over time, and especially what drives the change.

This blog was co-authored by Xuan Zheng, Director of Analytics EMEA at W2O.

Interested in learning more about W2O? Check out our About or Healthcare pages.

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The J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference usually begins – unofficially – with the announcement of a large acquisition, getting people talking about the big deals they expect in the year ahead.

This year was different.

Instead of a mega-buyout, the announcement that started the chatter was an upstart venture-backed company, EQRx. The company – which didn’t even have a presentation slot at the meeting – isn’t aiming to cure cancer or leverage CRISPR. Its business goal is to disrupt the industry by unleashing cheap me-too drugs with the goal of lowering drug prices.

That a pricing-focused start-up dominated the pre-JPM conversation was a tell-tale sign of a big shift in how the industry is looking at pricing and access. Because it wasn’t just EQRx that was talking about the topic. A steady stream of stories covered industry executives’ thoughts on why the cost of drugs remains high for patients and what can be done about it.

These included various views on prescription drug insurance structures with significant patient cost sharing, who reaps the value of drug rebates negotiated in contracts with middlemen pharmacy benefit managers, and the practice of price mark-ups by hospitals.

Talking about pricing can no longer take a back seat. Every company’s perspective on how to limit the impact of drug pricing on patients and society must be at the heart of the story that company tells investors, healthcare professionals, patients, policymakers, business partners, payers and voters. It is the now most meaningful part of how a company’s corporate social responsibility efforts are seen by the public.

To be sure, no company should make its presentation at J.P. Morgan solely about pricing and value. The industry’s lifeblood remains innovation, and the promise of the next cure is what keeps the biopharma industry moving forward. But companies that cannot or will not speak clearly and proactively about value risk their reputation, and that is a trend that will remain for the foreseeable future.

It is imperative that biopharma companies start taking the following approaches:

First, they must make proactive pricing ideas, solutions or frameworks a component of their company narrative. Rather than pointing to problematic structures elsewhere in the system affecting cost, biopharma must focus the story on what they can control. One size does not fit all, so companies should think about how pricing/value solutions can fit  their own specific situation, needs and story. There is reputational high ground open for the taking for those proposing proactive solutions.

Second, both technology and operational innovation are vital in any truly innovative industry. Companies must elevate communications around creative approaches to pricing or contracting to meet the demand of external audiences who are hungry for novel solutions. Innovators innovate, both in the laboratory and in the marketplace. And while many companies are great at talking about scientific breakthroughs, they must not miss the opportunity to apply the same focus to storytelling about their business models and pricing.

In the receptions I attended, the chatter often revolved around how the JPM buzz was muted this year. But to complain about the lack of the big-bang deal was to miss the real buzz: that we’re headed to a new future in the way companies use patient access to frame their mission, gain competitive advantage, and become part of the larger healthcare solution.

Interested in learning more about W2O? Check out our About or Healthcare pages.

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Innovation is hard. Done properly, it takes an unrelenting commitment and endless hours spent in service of seeking out that which is new and useful. This pursuit must not take place in a vacuum as it requires guidance and purpose. Innovation must be for the benefit of one’s key stakeholders which in W2O’s case are our clients, employees and ecosystem partners.

At W2O, we take this mission very seriously and it’s why for over a decade we have invested so heavily in SXSW, a 10-day event based in Austin, TX; one that is a rooted in innovation, discovery and disruption.

Each year, we approach SXSW with a renewed perspective and commitment to finding the pulse on what matters most to our clients and those within the healthcare ecosystem. This year is no different – we’re back and more health-focused and client-driven than ever before. We’re thrilled to feature clients on each of our official panels, showcasing our shared mission of making the world a healthier place through marketing and communications.

Below is a breakdown of our invite-only events – if you’re interested in attending, please reach out to our events team.

Sunday, March 15th

PreCommerce Health Innovation Summit: We will be hosting a full day of thought-provoking content, featuring speakers from the world’s top healthcare companies, discussing the hottest topics in the industry.

GeekACue: Following our PreCommerce Health Innovation Summit, we will host our 11th annual GeekACue party. This is one of the hottest parties during SXSW – so space is limited. Per tradition, we will have delicious BBQ and an amazing lineup of musicians: Hannah Gill & the Hours and Shane Smith and the Saints.

We’re excited to announce that this year, for the first time, we will be hosting one-day of healthcare-focused SXSW official programming as part of the Health and MedTech track. Below is the schedule of our official content, our confirmed speaker list, and our 2020 session recommendations. Happy SX, looking forward to seeing you in Austin next month!

W2O SXSW Health & MedTech Programming | March 16, 2020 | Agenda*

The LINE Austin, Topaz Ballroom

9:30 – 10:30 AM | The Patient Advocate Perspective

11:00 AM – 12:00 PM | Investing in Game-Changing Innovation

12:30 – 1:30 PM | Treating and Mapping the Brain: Neuro Advancements

2:00 – 3:00 PM | Value and Access in a Healthcare-Centric World

3:30 – 4:30 PM | A World Without Non-Communicable Diseases?

5:00 – 6:00 PM | Build, Not Buy: The Future of Health Innovation

W2O SXSW Health & MedTech Programming | March 16, 2020  | Confirmed Speaker List

SXSW 2020 Session Recommendations*

  • The Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) will be hosting a panel on “Why Emotions in Advertising Matter” on March 17th from 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM, featuring W2O’s own Chuck Hemann, Practice Leader of Digital Intelligence & Activation.

We hope you can join us for any/all of our events.

*These events require an official SXSW badge.

Interested in learning more about W2O? Check out our About or Healthcare pages.

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Each January, the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference brings bankers and executives to San Francisco to announce innovation, make deals and attend the many events that connect media with healthcare, digital health, biotech, pharma and technology investors.

Over the past six years, W2O has hosted an exclusive luncheon during the J.P. Morgan conference to facilitate game-changing discussions about the digital health space. This year’s event featured an all-star panel of industry leaders, who discussed key trends and important signals about the future of healthcare.

Looking back over the great discussions had and information shared, three trends stood out.

1. Collaboration fuels innovation.

J.P. Morgan has expanded from its roots of a couple hundred analysts and investors in biotech and pharma to more than 15,000 attendees. It now spans start-ups to global titans across the healthcare landscape, enveloping artificial intelligence, gene editing and bioengineering, behavioral health, telemedicine, data analytics and digital health.

With this growth, new and interesting partnerships are emerging as organizations across the ecosystem explore how to speed drug development, reduce costs and deliver a better patient experience and better care.

For Stacy Feld, Head, Johnson & Johnson Innovation her touchstone comes back to answering the right science and clinical questions that benefit consumers. During a panel focused on investment, she remarked, “The best innovations and the best ideas are just as likely to come from outside as they are from within Johnson & Johnson.”

2. Patient-centricity has new relevance.

Tying into the trend of greater collaboration, we also heard more from audiences on how they are putting patients’ needs first.

At the W2O Digital Health Luncheon, Harlan Levine, M.D., president, strategy and business ventures at City of Hope, remarked, “To get great treatment for cancer today, you really do need to treat the person as the consumer for personalized medicine.” His organization’s strategy is to employ a consumer-focused, digital approach to oncology to create a personal blueprint for every cancer.

On the payer side, organizations are focused on giving patients more choice, making accessing care easier. As Bryce Williams, vice president, lifestyle medicine at Blue Shield of California, noted, “If you really believe in empowering members, you give them more choice.”

3. Data privacy and protection concerns are still unanswered.

We know patient data drives innovation. But, despite efforts to connect, analyze and activate this data, serious concerns remain about how data is being protected, how it’s being used and who has access. With more traditional technology companies making serious inroads into health, a lack of transparency has created deep skepticism around data use without strong privacy and consumer protections.

Many consumers may not be aware that their data may be already being used. As to who is responsible, Mona Siddiqui, the chief data officer, Office of the Chief Technology Officer at U.S. Health and Human Services, commented, “Consumer education is important, but the onus is also on organizations to make sure they’re as transparent as possible around the use of our data.”

As we face the year ahead, these issues will continue to be challenges as we work to better serve the disparate needs of patients and stakeholders. As we come together to make care more affordable and accessible to more people, it is exciting to see the new partnerships, policies and solutions develop to take healthcare – in all its forms – to the next level.

Interested in learning more about W2O? Check out our About or Healthcare pages.

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We’re offering the holy grail: a downloadable healthcare holidays calendar.

You’d be hard pressed to find a marketing and communications network with broader expertise in healthcare than W2O Group. And as a content strategist at W2O, I fully appreciate the regulatory challenges of healthcare marketing.

It’s tough, and we get it.

You often can’t mention the drug by name. Or the indication. So we have to figure out how to communicate the brand promise through topics that ARE allowed.

Often, when we’re putting together an editorial calendar or social strategy for clients, we recommend peppering in stories related to healthcare holidays / observances, but Twitter stopped creating their Healthcare Holidays Calendar a few years ago.

We figured there’s no one more qualified than W2O to release a comprehensive 2020 healthcare holiday calendar. If you’re a W2O client, ask your account team for a personalized calendar, and we’ll happily edit this document down to fit your needs.

For all not-yet-clients*, enter a tiny bit of info to grab yours right now.

Please leave this field empty.

* P.S. – why aren’t we working together? Contact us to talk about your marcomms needs.

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As the old Danish proverb goes, it’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future. That doesn’t stop us from — once a year — taking a stab at it. The value and pricing conversation is moving fast, making it critically important to try to think about what’s coming next.

So here are our five predictions for what’s on tap for 2020. Some should be slam dunks, others will be air balls, but all of them reflect how we at W2O will be thinking about the next 12 months. (If you’re curious about our performance last year, we grade our 2019 prognostications at the bottom.)

Prediction One: The Most Meaningful New Policies Will Come from Statehouses

The political winds can shift pretty quickly, but the smart money suggests that industry-shifting reforms to the way that drugs are priced aren’t coming at the federal level. But Congress isn’t the only legislative body capable of setting policy: statehouses across the country are likely to continue to serve as laboratories of democracy. Sessions will begin next month, and we expect to see a wave of new bills designed to hold drug prices in check. It’s safe to ignore most transparency bills; early experiments in CaliforniaOregon and Nevada don’t seem to have had much impact. More significant would be efforts to develop drug review boards for state programs – efforts are percolating in Massachusetts and Colorado — where there is momentum from experiences in New YorkMaryland and elsewhere.

Prediction Two: ICER Will Get Competition

The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review has established itself as the predominant health technology assessment body in the United States, despite a lack of any formal power. That generates a fair amount of unease, especially given methodological concerns and hiccups in execution. That’s going to prompt the emergence of another value framework designed for broad use in the United States, likely supported by industry, to serve as a second opinion on ICER reviews. That could mean a turbo-charged Innovation and Value Initiative or an entirely new entity could enter the fray. No new entity is likely to displace ICER – not in 2020, and not beyond – but a larger marketplace for ideas will help decision-makers more thoughtfully think about value.

Prediction Three: Before “Nuclear Winter,” We’ll Get “Silent Spring”

The drug-pricing legislation passed by the House – and endorsed, in one form or another, by all Democratic presidential front-runners – will dry up innovation. The only question is how much. (For the most thoughtful estimate, see this PhRMA-sponsored analysis.) But, in 2020, concerns about innovation will become more than just a talking point and a theoretical concern: we’ll see more and more stories and more data about actual early-stage biotechs, especially those with untested but high-potential approaches, that are unable to secure funding. It won’t be the “nuclear winter” predicted by industry (not yet, anyway), but we’re calling the tangible, early effects of the uncertainty “silent spring,” and we’re making the call that we’ll see that phenomenon emerge in the next 12 months.

Prediction Four: Drug Prices Will Fall (And People Will Notice)

This is almost a gimme: drug prices have been essentially flat for the last three years, and it seems likely that the 2019 numbers will show the trend continuing. Of the five drugmakers who report net prices, four saw them fall in 2018. The country’s largest PBM said “unit costs” dropped 0.4%. And the federal government’s comprehensive assessment of retail drug spending also saw a drop. None of the factors driving those trends is diminishing: 2020 will be another year of deflation. The more audacious part of the prediction is that media and policymakers will begin to notice. Right now, the good news about drug pricing has been largely ignored, and while we don’t expect the public to throw rose petals at the feet of biopharma CEOs, we will see more acknowledgement that (most) of the industry has entered a new era of responsibility.

Prediction Five: The Defining Battle of 2020 Will Be Semantic

The debate over federal intervention will break down to one focused on lexicon. Right now, the most aggressive proposals all focus on allowing the government the power to “negotiate.” That’s been a talking point shared by Democrats and President Trump and even, to a lesser extent, by Republicans. Everyone loves the idea of “negotiation,” but it’s a misleading term: under H.R. 3, the House drug-pricing bill, “negotiations” would take place with a mandated cap on how much the government would pay, pegged to international prices. And any company that chose to simply walk away from the negotiating table would be punished. Those coercive elements have much more in common with “price controls,” an idea with far less support than “negotiations.” If we’re still talking about these policies as “negotiations” in a year, industry should be prepared for draconian reforms. If the media and policymakers, instead, are framing the cornerstone Democratic drug-pricing provisions as “price controls,” it’s likely 2020 (and beyond) will be a year of more heat than light.

So how did we do last year? Here were our predictions, and here is our self-assessment:

  1. “The first 90 days of 2019 will be the roughest news cycle ever for pharmaceutical pricing.” That wasn’t a particularly daring prognostication, and the cycle didn’t just peter out after 90 days. GOT IT RIGHT.
  2. “The End of Rebates … the [rebate] rule will come out of review in 2019 as the administration’s signature move on drug pricing.” The rule did come in like a lion but went out, only a few months later, like a lamb, the victim of wild White House infighting. HHS Secretary Alex Azar ended up on the wrong side of the debate. So did we. GOT IT WRONG.
  3. “PBMs Get Reinvented.” This one was a little mushy. PBMs kept taking fire, especially in the states, around spread pricing, but the rebate rule vanished. We’ll call this a PUSH.
  4. “Value Takes a Hit.” We thought that that idea of “value” – particularly the idea of price-setting based on value-driven calculations – would lose its shine. If anything, the debates about what constitutes value only intensified. GOT IT WRONG.
  5. “Transparency Comes of Age.” Sure, the Trump administration’s plan to require prices in drug ads ran into legal trouble. But the voluntary PhRMA disclosure approach and a passel of state efforts mean that list prices are close to public record now (even if no one appears to care). GOT IT RIGHT.


A “Predictions” article isn’t much fun if you can’t argue about it, so W2O hosted a webinar on Wednesday, Jan. 8 to defend our thinking and hear yours. National Pharmaceutical Council President and CEO Dan Leonard joined me to offer his thoughts on our predictions and what might befall us all in ’20. Watch above or follow this link.

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Conducting clinical trials properly is essential for participation. Ken Getz, Deputy Director & Research Professor at Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, unpacks how to design clinical trials well and he shares how technology has changed the industry. Plus, he discusses the latest edition of his book, The Gift of Participation.

Take a listen to the final What2Know episode of 2019, looking forward to seeing you all in 2020!

Don’t miss an episode of What2Know, subscribe to our podcast on iTunesStitcher or Spotify!

If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About and Healthcare page

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A peek into the new year to inform and challenge thinking, resources, risk

In many ways, 2019 was the year that so many things seemed to come together in our profession. Greater realization of the impact and opportunity of digital. Adapting the use of data and analytics in decision-making. Getting better at content and context in telling an organization’s story. Dealing with complexity and connectivity in a 24/7 world. Experimenting with increasing confidence. Measuring success with result indicators tied to business goals.

Grasping this new reality of communications and marketing has resulted in more efficient and productive use of resources, a more clear path to brand efficacy, and higher degree of trust between and among key stakeholders. As we approach 2020 (sounds like a sci-fi reference), there are a number of trends and possibilities in our sights. While no one can pretend they are Nostradamus, I’d like to offer a few thoughts for the coming year that challenge the status quo:

  1. Ethical AI – It is now more important than ever, as technology evolves, that privacy, access, transparency and usage of information be incorporated into AI models and systems to achieve trust.
  2. Healthcare begins shifting to prevention – Investment, innovation and behavioral change will result in new relationships between and among companies, physicians and patients. This means seeing pharma companies through new eyes and vice versa.  
  3. Culture predicts strategy – The focus of communications and marketing will shift from strategy formation and deployment to culture assimilation and improvement to determine strategic intent.
  4. Mobile drives leadership – Mobile technology will enhance leadership in multiple ways, including as a platform that projects key information in a personal way; a feedback mechanism; and a contextual format to enhance learning.
  5. Employees are your next innovation– In a digital world, employees take on a more active role in the operations of the business. As such, employees are viewed as contributing to the success and future intent of the business.   
  6. Data is knowledge; insight is differentiation – In 2020, data and analytics are table stakes providing information to the user. The real value add though is insight. Insight results in differentiating the organization in the marketplace.
  7. Science as story In the healthcare field, translating science into a story that one can relate to will be critical in breaking through to key audiences.
  8. Forecasting influence to predict behavior – The state of analysis is now at a point where influence can be tracked or led to behavior and performance.
  9. Relevance portends growth – In a social/digital reality, if you’re not relevant, you’re not viable. Relevance today is about engagement with stakeholders.   
  10. Unfair competitive advantage rests with agility, clarity – 2020 will further the understanding that brands of all sizes need to be quick, with a clear narrative and organizational designs that pivot with changes in the marketplace
  11. Purpose outperforms reason – Survey after survey indicates that a large majority of employees are disconnected from the business. They understand the strategy and can justify being there but feel lost in its application. We will see organizations rethinking their reason for existing and translating it to specific customer needs in 2020.
  12. Big data gets bigger and smaller – The ability to synthesize large amounts of data is only getting more profound. Ironically, breaking down data into usable information such as insights is growing, making decisions more precise and timely.

Deciphering the upcoming year is in many ways a game of chance. We certainly know all the pieces circling around us but forming a picture of what’s ahead is a bit more challenging. One thing we do know: the progress and lessons that led us here form the basis for where we go next. In that regard, all roads lead to becoming more connected, more informed, and more confident.

Interested in learning more about W2O? Check out our About or Healthcare pages.

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This week Abby Hayes, Managing Director of W2O is the special guest host of What2Know. She chats with Nikole Hannah Jones, Investigative Reporter at The New York Times Magazine and Creator of The 1619 Project. During their time, Nikole discusses racial inequities within healthcare, she shares her perspective on what it will take to reverse these biases, plus she gives a great vacation recommendation.

Take a listen below.

Don’t miss an episode of What2Know, subscribe to our podcast on iTunesStitcher or Spotify!

If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About and Healthcare page

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